Myanmar

Disaster preparedness and early response save lives in Myanmar

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Yangon, 26 April 2011 – The response to Cyclone Giri, which struck Myanmar’s Rakhine State on 22 October last year, was swift and helped meet the basic needs of many of the estimated 260,000 people affected by the disaster, according to a report presented today at the Myanmar Humanitarian Partnership Group meeting, a monthly meeting in Yangon attended by donors, UN agencies, non-governmental organizations and other members of the humanitarian community in Myanmar.

The meeting took stock of six months of relief and recovery assistance provided by the humanitarian community, in partnership with the Government of Myanmar. As has been the case following other disasters in the country, the cyclone resulted in severe human losses and displacement as well as damage to houses and infrastructure.

Although needs still exist, especially in the shelter, food security and livelihoods sectors, which include indebtedness due to loss of income opportunities, a prolonged crisis was largely adverted due to the response and close coordination between national and regional authorities and humanitarian partners, including the local communities. Donors responded generously with more than USD 31 million provided for relief and early recovery so-far. An estimated USD 46 million is still needed for the early and medium term recovery against the total of 57 million identified in the inter-agency Post-Giri Consolidated Action Plan presented in February.

“What we experienced after Cyclone Giri was a rapid, decisive action rooted in a common understanding of the importance of cooperation and coordination. Community-awareness and evacuations reduced the scale of disaster, and relief aid was immediately deployed, with the generous support of the international donor community,” said Mr. Parajuli, the UN Resident & Humanitarian Coordinator.

The 6 month milestone of Cyclone Giri coincides with the three year anniversary of Myanmar’s biggest ever natural disaster, Cyclone Nargis, which left an estimated 140,000 people dead and affected the lives of 2.4 million people in the Ayeyarwady and Yangon Divisions. Only one month ago, on 24 March 2011, an earthquake of magnitude 6.8 on the Richter scale struck the southern parts of Shan State in the east of the country, another reminder that Myanmar is a disaster-prone country with floods, cyclones and earthquakes frequently occurring.

“While these events represented severe losses and grief for the population, they also resulted in increased cooperation between the Government, the international community and local organizations, which enables us to do more and respond faster, thereby saving lives,” said Parajuli.
Over the past three years, the Government, together with the humanitarian and development aid community has invested in disaster risk reduction and disaster preparedness measures and programmes in support to communities, in order to reduce their vulnerability and increase their readiness in case of disasters.

The Myanmar Humanitarian Partnership Group meeting, attended by over 80 experts, heads of missions and agencies, diplomats and aid workers, also heard a presentation by the World Health Organization (WHO) on the impact of malaria, a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in Myanmar, as well as a presentation by the organization EcoDev on behalf of the inter-agency Environment Thematic Working Group on the United Nations Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (UN-REDD). The programme has a significant relevance to Myanmar as deforestation impacts on climate change as well as communities’ ability to prevent or cope with natural disasters.

For more information, please contact:

The United Nations in Myanmar Aye Win National Information Officer, UNIC Myanmar tel: +95 9 5123952 E-mail: aye.win@undp.org
Esben Q. Harboe Special Assistant to the UN RC/HC Bangkok tel: +66 (0) 811039196 E-mail: esben.harboe@undp.org